April’s Main Range release from Big Finish deviates from the norm as we are presented with not one adventure spanning four episodes and two discs but rather a double-bill with each disc consisting of a two-part story.

This is an experimental move that could be deemed controversial for ‘classic era’ listeners – as echoed by Nicholas Briggs in the accompanying interviews, but speaking personally there’s nothing wrong with a bit of controversy to shake up the status quo.

We are used to enjoying the exploits of the fourth and eighth Doctors in this format but was intrigued to discover how Peter Davison’s fifth incarnation would fare.

First up is ‘Alien Heart’ by Stephen Cole where a catastrophic event disrupting time and space and destroying a number of worlds leads The Doctor and Nyssa to an outpost on the moon of Traxana and an encounter with a horde of green arachnoids – or ‘cell spiders’ as they soon become referred to. Nyssa is soon spirited away by these gelatinous creatures leaving The Doctor to encounter Sondaral and Elthar – two investigators from Earth also looking into the strange events unfolding. And so the mystery begins…

The second adventure is Guy Adams’ ‘Dalek Soul’ and there are no surprises in guessing who the villains of the piece are! This story plunges us straight into the thick of things as the Doctor has allied himself with a group of resistance fighters on Mojox battling against Skaro’s finest whilst Nyssa is working in their laboratories creating the latest weapon to be used in the Daleks’ quest for conquest. To complicate things and further baffle the listener *SPOILERS* the Doctor is soon revealed to be a traitor, also in league with his deadliest enemies.

Both stories comprising this release are linked with an impressive cliff-hanger bridging the narrative between both tales and whilst – on face value, it appears that we have two unrelated adventures the reality is that one flows straight into the other. The best comparison to make is with Frontier In Space/Planet Of The Daleks from the Pertwee era. To say any more would give the game away (if one hasn’t already done so!).

There’s no denying that the pace of the storytelling afforded by this new format is quicker – even the musical score has a faster beat to it which really pulls the listener into proceedings. Where the tried and tested four part ‘model’ allows sufficient time to develop characters and build up the relevant scenario there’s no such formula this time. In fact, there’s a real sense of urgency to things and top marks go to Richard Fox and Lauren Yason for some top notch music and sound design which establishes that. There’s only a small cast in these stories which is perfect for what this experimental approach aims to achieve – a greater number of characters would hinder matters somewhat given how effective I’ve said that the pacing is.

My personal favourite of the two stories is the latter and the mystery that it presents in respect of why our two lead characters have allied themselves with their greatest foes. Kudos to the cliff-hanger ending between both episodes which – literally, left me hanging until I got round to hearing the rest of the tale. I’ve always been a fan of Peter Davison and his incarnation of the Doctor is my favourite from the classic era – this month’s release sees an edgier than usual take on the Timelord. He wastes no time during the early stages of in taking the offensive when Sondaral and Elthar first encounter him. It’s a welcome change and – again, perhaps a side effect of the shorter than usual running time.

So, does the experimental shake-up to the formula work? On this occasion, I will say yes. The classic series didn’t do two-parter’s that regularly yet some of those stories are amongst my favourites (The Awakening springs to mind) – I’d like the same to apply for Big Finish.
Rating 8.5/10

ALIEN HEART / DALEK SOUL is now available to buy from the Big Finish website.

Synopsis

Alien Heart by Stephen Cole

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa stumble across a trail of ten destroyed worlds, all of them obliterated by means of some utterly monstrous but utterly unknown device. The planet Traxana would seem to be next in line to suffer the same fate. But when the TARDIS lands on an outpost on Traxana’s moon, Nyssa is carried away by a tide of giant green arachnoids, leaving the Doctor behind…

And the coming menace is closer than he thinks.

Dalek Soul by Guy Adams

On the Dalek-occupied world of Mojox, a group of rebels is engaged in a futile fightback against the invaders – but at last they’ve found an ally, in the form of the mysterious Doctor. Elsewhere, however, the Daleks’ Chief Virologist is seeking to perfect a biological weapon to wipe out the Mojoxalli, once and for all.

Her name… is Nyssa.

Written By: Stephen Cole, Guy Adams
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Eve Webster (Sonderal), Geoffrey Newland (Elthar), Alex Tregear (Theebe), Vineeta Rishi (Falex), and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

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